Many of us have them, bet you do too, those comforting dishes embraced in tradition, foods whose flavors or scents conjure up meaningful memories of holiday occasions, special times with family and friends.
Sometimes recipes of special dishes eventually evolve in their story line and original title to even include the name of the person who prepares it like ‘Mom’s Turkey Stuffing,’ or ‘Nana’s Chocolate Cookies.’ Some favorites might even be named to honor the person who inspired the dish such as today’s “Becks Cottage Pie” where upon its recent preparation in my household landed its own definitive name as such.
Technically, it was really Becks mother, Nicola, who inspired the dish, and I first prepared it after researching Cottage Pie like a dissertation, piecing together the desired ingredients combination whose early on intended loving outcome was meant to connect a comforting piece of Becks homeland in Wales to our American University Field Hockey Tailgates upon Becks arrival as a member of the team over five years ago now.
I know I’ve shared, at least within the body of a former Tailgating Post on Spiced Peach Blog, that the first appearance of this Cottage Pie was met with a beaming smiling face by Becks, well, all until shock ensued the Tailgate table just minutes later, when after having anticipated a take-away extra portion of some of this comfort food for a bit later, a mere green pea remained. Subsequent tailgates then set forth 2 much larger casserole size dishes, enough for Becks to snag a bit extra for later on, early on. Eventually Cottage Pie began making its appearance at other gatherings, team dinners hosted at our house, then moving on as a permanent feature for at least one of the meals whenever Becks would visit over holiday seasons or otherwise.
Really, I should thank my youngest, Alex the Athlete for being talented and fortunate enough to not only to play on such a great team in college, but also for the blessing of such great lifetime friends like Becks. Ah. Those treasured fleeting moments of college field hockey matches and big team family tailgates, those days we would literally truck my Grams old convection oven from Philadelphia to DC, along with a suitable extension cord, enabling serving up steaming hot entrees each to be shared. Tradition. I can’t wait to see Becks when she visits from Wales in a few weeks and perhaps maybe, just for old times sake, I should one night prepare this special dish whose story line and title name, Becks Cottage Pie, now continues on its inspiration with meaningful memories of special times. Cheers Becksie!
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 large or 2 small carrots, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems, chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds ground meat
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 1/2 cups beef stock
- 5 shakes of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2- 2 cups green peas
- good pinch or two coarse kosher salt, adjusted to taste
- few grinds cracked black pepper
- 1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into small even sized pieces
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut into four pieces
- 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup half and half, plus additional for thinning potatoes a bit if desired
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt, more or less to taste
- Pour oil into a large sized Dutch oven on very low heat, scrape in the onions, cook for ten minutes, tumble in the carrots, stir, cook another ten minutes. Sprinkle in the thyme and garlic, cook another two minutes, spoon in the tomato paste, stir, cook three to four minutes, add in the ground meat, increase the heat temperature to medium, stir ground beef with the vegetable mixture and intermittently until the ground beef is cooked throughout. Sprinkle on the flour, stir, cook another few minutes. Pour in wine, reduce around five minutes, pour in the beef stock, shake in the Worcestershire, stir, place lid onto the pot and cook gently around thirty-five minutes or longer on low heat stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has absorbed. Tumble in the peas, salt and pepper, stir, check seasoning and adjust to taste. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer the cooked mixture to a greased casserole. Pipe mashed potatoes all around the top of the Cottage Pie then sprinkle all about with cheddar cheese. Cover lightly with aluminum foil and bake until hot and bubbly, around thirty-five minutes or longer before removing the foil and broiling the top of Cottage Pie melting the cheese to a golden color. Let sit for at least ten minutes for the Cottage Pie to settle before cutting and serving.
- In a small bowl beat together the egg yolk, half and half, and nutmeg. Boil potatoes until very tender, drain, return cooked potatoes to the pot and place the pot back onto the burner on the lowest temperature shaking the pot to dry the potatoes a bit. With the heat still on, mash potatoes with a hand masher then drop in the butter, continuing to mash, sprinkle in the salt, mash all about again then pour in the egg and half and half mixture, remove potato masher giving it a good whack against the side of the pan to remove any potatoes then using an electric mixer mash the potatoes until quite creamy, taste, add in more salt if desired and a bit more half and half for thinning out a bit. Transfer mashed potatoes to a pastry bag fitted with a large round sized decorating tip for piping all around the top of the Cottage Pie.